Reconsider Your Sources, Nurture the Planet
(page 5 of 5)
Wind Power - It'll Blow You Away
Some believe the wind turbine may be the most cost-effective source of electrical power in the future.
Idaho Tower Co., a new Ketchum company, installed a pair of 50-kilowatt wind turbines in Mountain Home, enabling Ketchum resident Thomas Griffith to sell hydrogen to companies that would otherwise have to import the fuel from Canada.
But, if you think of wind power in terms of giant skyscraping turbines that stand 120 feet catching the wind that blows over prairie and sea, think again.
Manufacturers are coming out with wind turbines designed to provide energy for individual homes.
They’re three to four feet in diameter and stand just 35 feet tall. The small turbines make less noise than the average washing machine, says Eric Demment, a spokesman for Idaho Tower Co. And some are being designed to look like yard art.
“Obviously, the higher you go, the more you can get out of the wind,” says Demment. “But smaller systems have become popular even back in New Jersey where the houses are crammed together.”
A number of Wood River Valley residents, including Morgan Brown, are doing wind studies right now to assess what kind of system might work best for them.
Currently, a business might pay $1.5 million for a system producing 1 megawatt of wind-generated electricity. Since the average U.S. household uses 10,000 kilowatts of energy annually, this would be enough to power 140,000 homes.
A 10-kilowatt turbine that could supply an entire house given the right amount of wind at its blade tips could cost $6,000, estimates Demment. The towers could cost twice that again to install.
Among the products on the market is the Skystream 3.7, a new generation residential wind generator designed to provide quiet, clean electricity in low wind. A tower 34 feet tall with a 12-foot blade can produce 400 kilowatts a month, given a wind speed of 12 miles per hour.
Homeowners who generate more energy than they can use can sell it back to the electrical company. If the wind stops blowing, they can fall back on conventional electricity.
On the surface, it appears that the Wood River Valley is not the optimal place for such turbines, despite the morning’s down valley wind and afternoon and evening’s up valley wind.
Other areas, such as the Camas Prairie around Fairfield, seem to boast more wind.
Homes need to sit on at least a half acre of unobstructed ground. The wind needs to be at least 10 miles per hour.
That number should come down, though, as turbines are continually refined, says Morgan Brown.
Given Idaho’s low electrical rates–among the lowest in the nation—there’s not a big rush by homeowners to put turbines in their backyards, Demment acknowledges. Those who get them first will be people like Brown, who want them to raise awareness about the possibilities.
“We can put them in. But you’re probably not going to recoup your costs in five years as you could in Texas,” he says. “But anything we can do to reduce greenhouse gases and dependency on foreign oil . . . The technology of solar and wind is coming along, so if we had more federal incentives and help with research, if we put our minds and money to it, it could take off.”
To help consumers, the Snake River Alliance is constructing an informational site on its website where consumers can get answers to questions about wind power and other alternative energy sources.
“We hope to be able to help people figure out the best alternative energy sources for Idaho,” says Deb Bohrer, president of the local branch of the nuclear-watchdog agency. “And we all want to bring in experts to analyze the best alternative energy sources for Idaho, ranging from wind to geothermal.”